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|September 21, 1999||
The Rediff Cricket Interview/ Inderjit Singh Bindra
'Can you risk Tendulkar getting permanently injured because you don't want to spend a few extra rupees?'
It was, to use an oft-quoted phrase, a 'dream team'. A melding of the vision and planning skills of the one, with the nuts and bolts attention to detail of the other. Bindra was the dreamer, the planner, the man who stayed several steps ahead of the game and who could anticipate trends well ahead of time; Dalmiya was the hammer, nailing down those ideas, devising ways and means to implement them, then tirelessly following through till those ideas were brought to fruition.
And then ambition intervened. Dalmiya wanted to become a player on a bigger stage -- to wit, the International Cricket Conference. Alarmed at the growing clout of the Asian lobby, the entrenched powers in the ICC went back to the classic 'divide and rule' strategy, and pushed Bindra forward as a counter to Dalmiya.
The wedge was driven. Deep. The two one-time friends fell out. Since then, Dalmiya's efforts have been bent towards completely marginalising his one time partner. While Bindra -- who entered cricket administration in the early 1970s and who has been a member in good standing of the BCCI's higher echelons since 1975 -- has had to stay content with patrolling the fringes of cricket administration, hoping that some day, the tide will turn.
Faisal Shariff caught up with Inderjit Bindra recently, for an extended conversation that encompassed cricket administration in the country and Bindra's own role therein.
Cricket and you -- when and how did the involvement begin?
Cricket has always been a passion with me. I have never claimed to be a cricket player of any standing, I was merely another enthusiast who would get up at all kinds of hours to listen to running commentary from Australia, the West Indies, England... the kind of fan who would bunk school and college when commentary was on. As far as playing is concerned, I was like most of us, played a bit at the school, college, district level, nothing beyond that. But it is my love for the game that got me into administration, in the early seventies when I became vice-president of the Punjab Cricket Administration, then with the BCCI itself since 1975.
Almost three decades in cricket administration, and yet you are not often seen or heard in public. Why the low profile? And why have you been increasingly public in the last couple of years?
I have always liked a low profile, I've liked to do my work quietly, and away from the limelight. Yes, in recent times I have been more vocal, and that is with a reason. I have the courage of my own convictions, I don't believe in hiding behind anonymity when making my statements. So when I realised the Board is increasingly being manipulated by people outside the administration, by commercial, vested interests, that these interests had taken a stranglehold on the Board, I decided it was time to go public.
I refused to be a party to this, during Board meetings in the last couple of years I have voiced my dissent in writing to various decisions. But they, the Board officials, never even recorded my dissent. Had I continued with the Board, it would appear that I too was a party to these decisions, since my dissent was never placed on record, so I totally disassociated myself from the board. It is only a month ago, when the issue of television rights came up, that I went public, came back to the Board.
These 'manipulative forces' being who, exactly?
That is the trouble. When you are within the administration, you know what is going on. Yet, given the laws, you can't name them since all it does is produce a defamation suit. There are things that happen, which you know about, but which you cannot prove -- obviously, they don't leave tangible evidence you can hold up and say, look, this is what I mean. And you have to remember that a lot of these forces I am talking about are outside the country, they operate from abroad, and a whole new set of libel laws come into operation in that situation.
People who know say the golden period of cricket administration in India was when you and Dalmiya were a team...
At the time, M A Chidambaram -- and let me say here I had great respect for him -- was in charge, and he was literally a dictator. A benevolent dictator, though, and he did a lot of good things. However, he had total control of the Board till we three teamed up. Within six to eight months of our coming together, we actually defeated him on the issue of manager of the then tour to Australia. That was the first time the then demigod of Indian cricket was tasting defeat. People were actually scared to open their mouths in his presence, till we started the fight in Hyderabad, during the 1979 Board meeting.
Dalmiya and I continued our partnership from then. One of our greatest moments was in 1984, when we helped the then Board president, Mr N K P Salve, to win the bidding for the 1987 World Cup and ensured that for the first time since its inception, the competition would be held outside England. During that battle, Dalmiya and I complemented each other very well, he is a very able administrator and we worked in harness, as a team. And as a team we were unbeatable because we each provided what the other lacked. We continued our association till the middle of 1996 -- then we parted ways, and the rest is history.
And what caused the parting of ways?
We had differences of perception. We differed on certain personalities who I thought were trying to manipulate the Board, commercial interests who wanted to influence our decision-making process. I fought against that, and this led to our parting ways. For the first time, Dalmiya and I fought each other -- he put up Raj Singh Dungarpur as candidate for the Board president's election in 1996 and though I have respect for Raj Singh, we put up our own candidate, D C Agashe from Maharashtra, and lost by just two votes, at the Board meeting in Madras.
I accepted that defeat with grace. We live in a democracy and since the results meant that the majority was with Dalmiya for whatever reason, I decided there was no point in continuing the fight -- had I continued, the bitterness would have spilled into the open and Indian cricket would have suffered. So from that date, I stopped attending Board meetings -- in fact, the meeting in Bombay earlier this year, when a decision was taken about television rights, is the first meeting I have attended since the Madras one.
So for three years, you have been away from cricket administration. When you review that period, what is your assessment of how cricket administration in the country has gone?
During this period, we took Indian cricket to a level where it was respected, listened to, in the world. India became an effective voice in the ICC, a voice no one could ignore, and frankly it was a matter of pride to me personally when Dalmiya became ICC chief, it showed the enormous clout Indian cricket had developed.
In all this, I have no regrets. In fact, I am glad I played a small role in elevating Indian cricket to a level where, today, it is really the fuel that helps the game run on a global scale. Wherever cricket is played in the world, it is Indian audiences, Indian sponsors, Indian corporate houses that provide the funding and make the events a success.
Even in England, during the World Cup, someone who was involved in the sale of tickets told me that of the total of 31 million pounds earned, over eight million pounds was brought in by Indians and expat Indians -- far more than any other community. Add to that the fact that the major part of advertising revenue, television rights revenue, it all came from India. Today, that is why everyone wants India to participate -- because we have the money power.
However, there is a downside. When we play in Kenya, in Sharjah, in Bangladesh, in Toronto or wherever, it is that much money going out of the budget of Indian corporate houses, into those countries and venues, all in the name of 'globalisation' of cricket. That money would have come to the Board in India, if we were playing here -- and that money could then be put to much better use in developing our own infrastructure.
I am all for globalisation, but then, the money should at the least go to the countries, the associations hosting these tournaments, and not to various middlemen. But today, it is the middlemen who are making the money, and the sufferer is Indian cricket.
These middlemen you talk of, are they from within the BCCI?
No, not from within the Indian Board. What happens is, cricket associations in places like Toronto and Kenya and Bangladesh and other venues are small, they don't have the expertise to run such events. So they hand the rights over to outside agencies, who pay them a pittance and then mint money by marketing the event. If the money went to the host association, it would help the growth of the game abroad -- but today, it is only the middlemen who make money.
So you are unhappy with the course cricket administration is taking at the moment...
Definitely, yes. Indian cricket has suffered in the last three years. We, Dalmiya and I, complemented each other, we also balanced each other. Now, there is no balance. The quality of administration has suffered, the goal now is simply to make money.
'The players are not involved in match-fixing. I wish I could say the same for the administrators' -- the concluding part of the Inderjit Singh Bindra interview.
Mail Faisal Shariff
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